21 May 2024

Canals form an important part of the Government’s work in reintroducing biodiversity in nature. In addition to their history and industrial heritage, they also provide the backdrop to the health and well-being routines of many. I understand that around 800 million visits are made to our canals every year, demonstrating their importance in the UK.

The Canal & River Trust is responsible for 2,000 miles of waterways and associated historic industrial infrastructure in England and Wales. It maintains the navigability and safety of its waterways including reservoirs and embankments. The Government recognises that the organisation has an important role to play in contributing to the Environmental Improvement Plan.

To date, the Canal & River Trust has received £550 million of Government funding. While there is no obligation to fund it beyond 2027, in July 2023 the Government announced that it would offer a new long-term funding package of over £400 million, subject to certain conditions.

Since first created in 2012 as a private charity independent of the Government, Ministers have been clear that the Canal & River Trust should become progressively more self-sufficient financially. A Memorandum of Understanding between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Canal & River Trust signed in June 2012 included the objective to “reduce dependence on Government Grant and to foster increasing self-sufficiency, by providing access to new charitable income streams and stimulating new efficiencies.” I am aware that the new funding deal for 2027 to 2037 continues that objective, as Ministers support the trust to achieve greater self-sufficiency.

Finally, Defra has been supporting the charity for some time on how it can increase income from other sources alongside continued Government funding. My ministerial colleagues and I look forward to continued enjoyment of our local waterways.

Electric Charging Points -

The Government is developing policies to respond to climate change across the country and I am aware that navigation authorities are exploring ways to adapt the network, such as the installation of electric charging points in rivers and canals to encourage boaters to switch to electric vessels.

Increase in mooring fees -

Because of its creation as a private sector charitable company and responsibility for owning and managing its canal and river network, the Canal & River Trust is free from public sector financial constraints and so is able to set its fees and charges accordingly.

While the Government currently provides the Canal & River Trust with an annual grant to support the maintenance and navigability of its waterway network, it is a private sector organisation Ministers do not have a role in the management of the charity or its operational matters.